The Fed lost control over interest rates – so now what?

My friend Jay Vorhees of JVM Lending had a great blog recently about The Fed and interest rates. Here is the article below, with my two cents included:

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Rates are at an eight-month low right now – about 1/2 percent lower than they were at their peak in October. I should add though that they still remain about 1/2 percent higher than they were last year at this time. So, did the Fed finally achieve its stated goal of pushing up rates?

Not in the way anybody expected.

According to former Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm, the Fed now has less control over interest rates than at any other time in its 105-year history. I won’t go into all the details, but it has to do with its massive bond holdings (almost $4 trillion) and the excess reserves in the banking system. You can read more about it here.

The Fed can influence rates in the short term with its actual policies and statements, but the markets now seem to have much more say in the matter than the Fed. We are watching this currently, as the Fed’s short-term rate increases are not resulting in long-term rate increases like we have seen in the past.

What this means is a repeat of what I have been saying repeatedly over the last several years – nobody really has any idea of what will happen with rates (or anything else for that matter – remember Mr. Trump’s election?). A slowing world economy could continue to bring rates down, or a resurgence in bank lending (according to the article referenced above) could spark an inflationary spiral that will send rates through the roof.

Suffice it to say that we will see a lot more volatility in both the stock and bond markets for a long time to come. What is really scary though is what will happen when everyone figures out that there is no way that the world can ever pay back the $250 trillion in worldwide debt that has built up over the last ten years. When that happens, today’s environment will seem like very calm sailing.

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Lastly – despite the uncertainty, many pundits are now predicting low (and even declining) rates throughout 2019.

Great stuff from Jay, right? So, here are  my thoughts: The Fed came up with four rate hikes last year, and now the mortgage rates are lower than expected as stock market sways are leading people to bonds. What that means for the real estate market, especially locally is that more buyers maybe taking advantage of getting in now.  I am starting to see the market pick back up, but this year it didn’t happen on January 3rd, didn’t really see it until the weekend after January 7th when the kids returned to school from their holiday break.  January has been interesting the last few years, as buyers have been out, but sellers want to wait until March and they often loose that burst of lots of buyers and no inventory.   At any rate, nobody has a crystal ball and I believe we will be on a wild ride as the stock market will have more volatility (as it is suppose to).

Why rates went down after 4th Fed increase?

My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending wrote another interesting end-of-year blog recently, regarding rates. Despite the Fed increasing rates for the 4th time in 2017, they are still down. Why is that, and how does it affect you?

In Jay’s blog, he notes that 30-year fixed rates have fallen 1/4 percent over the last year even though the Fed has done four increases. On that note, he asks why the Fed’s rate increases don’t push up mortgage rates?

In response, Jay gives two main reasons:

  1. Short-term rates don’t always affect long-term rates
  2. Many factors (besides the Fed) influence rates

Inflation, geopolitical strife, economic news and demand for credit and bank loans are the other main factors named by Jay. Most of those are very relevant in today’s societal and political climate. Basically, the Fed helps influence rates, but isn’t the sole influencer – if investors are pushed out of stocks or bonds into the other, due to war, a poor week on the stock market, etc., rates will change just as rapidly.

So, what does this mean for you?   Rates are going to continue to fluctuate. They are still low, so if you are considering buying, it might be a good time to get off the fence and make a move in 2018!

The climbing stock market’s effect on housing

Did you know interest rates climbed about 1/4 of a percent in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election? This was the biggest single-day rate increase in three years.

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Despite being told over and over again that a Trump victory would result in lower rates, the opposite has happened. In a recent Forbes column (Dec. 6 issue) Gary Shilling said he thinks the markets have massively overreacted to Trump’s election. He points out that the root causes of weak economic growth (that have kept rates low) will remain. He also says that Trump’s proposed tax cuts and stimulus programs will be watered down by Congress; the expectations of an economic boom are overblown. If he is correct, this means rates may fall again.

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This now begs the point: nobody can predict anything in this market. So, if you have been thinking about buying or selling, is it time to get off the fence? Rates are still historically low, but for every 1/2 percent increase in rate on a $500,000 loan, the payment increases about $140 to $150 (and even less after “tax benefits”). Should buyers and borrowers wait to see if rates fall before moving forward with transactions? Absolutely not. Borrowers can easily take advantage of no-cost refi’s if rates fall.

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If you do decide to buy or sell, give me a call, I would love to help you navigate the process!

Will the Presidential race affect our mortgage rates?

I thought this might be interesting to share. Traditionally, there is very little on the market as we enter the holiday season. The last couple years, sellers listing in December and the beginning of January tended to have multiple offers because there isn’t much inventory (meaning, people don’t like to have Open Houses or showings during the holiday season as they are usually entertaining family or friends).

With the Presidential election around the corner, many agents are getting the feel the market has softened. It will be interesting to see how this year’s election will affect our market. Here are some insights from my friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending:

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Trump = Lower Rates; Clinton = Same or Higher Rates

We have blogged several times about how rates are not held artificially low prior to major elections. It is a myth that they are. Presidents, in fact, like to see proof that the economy is getting stronger, and these signs usually push rates higher. Presidents hope for positive signs like GDP growth, job growth, lower unemployment, etc. These signs usually push investors into stocks and out of bonds, causing rates to go up.

(Quick reminder: When investors demand more stocks, rates go up; when investors demand more bonds, rates go down.)

With respect to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, it is all about “stability.” Stock market investors like “stability” as much as they like growth. Worries about instability or shakeups send investors away from stocks and into the safety of bonds (pushing rates down).

Investors believe that Clinton will follow President Obama’s course, and this is perceived as “stability.” So, signs that Clinton might win will probably keep investors in stocks, which will ultimately keep rates largely the same.

Investors are not sure what Trump might do, so signs that Trump might win will probably push investors to the safety of bonds, pushing rates lower.

This is very similar to the uncertainty the Brexit vote created and its influence in pushing rates lower.